We interrupt your World Cup shenanigans because…it’s that time again…rejoice, it’s fixtures day tomorrow! What better way to plan for the 2018/19 season then to spend hours pontificating to your work mate (who really couldn’t care less) about the perils of Oldham away on a Tuesday night in December?!
Of course with the small distraction of events in Russia, this year’s fixtures release has snuck up on us like a Shaun McWilliams tackle but all the better for it as the Cobblers prepare to learn the dates of key clashes in their bid to make a swift return to League One. So who should we be looking for as an ideal first opponent come the big kick off and who would provide the tougher assignments for Dean Austin’s first full hunting season?
The obvious choices to avoid are the teams just relegated with us from League One so that counts out Oldham Atheltic, Bury and MK Dons. We also want to dodge the two teams coming up – momentum will still be very much with both Tranmere Rovers and Conference National winners Macclesfield Town. You’d want to kick things off at home so that eliminates some testing long haul opening days at the likes of Carlisle United and Exeter City.
Those with a ‘new manager bounce’ should also be avoided so the aforementioned Exeter, Carlisle, MK Dons, Oldham and Macclesfield should, in theory at least, be better left to a mid-season encounter.
Now let’s take out the teams in the best form towards the end of last season that are left in the division – Crewe Alexandra and Grimsby Town both finished the campaign with three consecutive wins while Cambridge United and Notts County also finished well.
That leaves us with eleven possibilities so to narrow it down more we’ll discard Mansfield Town, Lincoln City, Swindon Town and Colchester United who haven’t been taken out already but are within the front runners with the bookies.
We’re looking for an opposition who will cause a bit of a stir by coming to Sixfields on the opening day but who also ended last season in poor form and who are down the list in the betting and any list of expectant title or promotion winners. There is, then, having taken all of the above into consideration, only one standout opponent and that is Cheltenham Town.
Gary Johnson left Sixfields under a mighty cloud having done next to nothing with the club, alienating fans and upsetting the majority of the fan base, and his Robins side ended the season with four straight defeats to leave them with an uncertain summer. Fans are divided as to whether they believe Johnson is the man to take them forward and what better way to kick off our return to League Two then to ‘welcome’ Johnson back to Sixfields and then send him on his merry way pointless?
When Carlisle away comes out tomorrow morning (9am fixtures announcement!) don’t blame me but we can only hope that things fall a little more invitingly.
It’s the first milestone of the summer in the Football League…bring it on!